US consumer goods giant Procter & Gamble has committed itself to revealing how it makes product safety decisions by the end of the year.
The company says it will "publish the principles that guide our efforts on ingredient transparency, the process we use to ensure the safety of our products, and our commitment to continuous improvement of our ingredients and product portfolio".
The commitment was made in the company’s 2030 goals report, released last month. It says that P&G intends to publish these principles by the end of 2018, and to report ongoing progress on them in its annual citizenship report.
"We believe providing people with more insights to the extensive work we do (and have always done) to ensure their safety will help them make more informed choices about the products they use every day," said P&G senior communications manager, Tracey Long.
This is the latest in an ongoing transparency drive by P&G. Last year, the company said it will reveal the fragrance ingredients – down to 0.01% of content – for all products sold in the US and Canada by the end of 2019. It intends to start with its Tide laundry detergents, Herbal Essences shampoos, Febreze air fresheners and Olay skin care products.
P&G has also disclosed its full product fragrance palette and provided a full list of chemicals not used in its fragrances.
Consumers driving industry trend
Sarada Tangirala, director of corporate accountability at the NGO Women's Voices for the Earth, told Chemical Watch that the conglomerate's commitment "certainly marks a major shift in industry trends around transparency and disclosure."
And Dev Gowda, director of the campaign for toxic-free products at the US Public Interest Research Group (US PIRG), agreed that the transparency efforts seen by such companies as SC Johnson and Unilever signal "positive change" in the industry.
According to Mr Gowda, consumer pressure is making a "huge difference" in this.
P&G is "acknowledging that consumer demand for more information about products and product ingredients is driving the changes," added Alexandra Scranton, director of science and research at WVE.
"We look forward to a much more detailed explanation of what ‘safety’ means to P&G, and examples of how they go above and beyond regulatory compliance to ensure the safety of their products," she said.
But Mr Gowda said that increased transparency efforts do not ensure that products on the shelf are completely safe. He called on personal care companies to phase out the use of chemicals of concern.
"Methylparaben and propylparaben are preservatives that have been linked to cancer, hormone disruption, and reproductive toxicity, and should not be in the products that we apply to our bodies everyday," he said.
P&G’s Ms Long responded that consumers could read about the company’s policy on parabens on its website.
There, the company says the substances have "been proven safe over decades of research". It provides some paraben-free beauty products, and discloses their presence on products that contain them.